‘Sir Len’ snaps up theatre
22 June, 2018
The Theatre Royal Haymarket
THE new owner of the historic Theatre Royal Haymarket has been named, and it is billionaire oligarch and sponsor of various big name institutions, Sir Leonard (Len) Blavatnik.
His firm, Access Entertainment, announced this week they had bought the theatre, put up for sale earlier this year by the Michaels family, who had owned it since the 1970s, for an undisclosed sum.
The theatre dates from 1720: designed by John Nash, it is grade-I listed and had an illustrious history. Those who have trodden its well-worn boards include Vivien Leigh, Peggy Ashcroft, Ralph Richardson, Charles Laughton and Flora Robson.
During World War II Sir John Geilgud moved into a dressing room on the top floor and slept there through the Blitz on fire-watching duty.
A fundraising bid had been made by a group called The Bossy Collective to try to buy the theatre with the aim of using it to promote women’s writing and acting in the West End.
They looked to raise £3million to secure the deal, but Sir Leonard, who also owns media empire Time Warner and has donated more than £55million to the V&A, swooped in with a bid that the previous owners deemed acceptable.
Handing over tranches of his vast wealth to UK institutions has not always been straightforward for Sir Leonard, a Ukrainian-born tycoon who is friends with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The tycoon caused some controversy when it emerged he had donated $1million to the inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump, a gift that led to the resignation of Oxford don Bo Rothstein from the Blavatnik School of Government, a university institution he had bankrolled.
Still, he is happy.
He said of the new theatre: “The UK is home to many of the world’s most remarkable artistic talents. We are proud to be the new owners of the Theatre Royal Haymarket and will continue its long tradition of excellence.”